Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Effects of Concussions on Cognitive Performance: An FMRI Study

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Howard Cromwell (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Richard Anderson (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Sherona Garrett-Ruffin (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Xin Wang (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Kei Nomaguchi (Other)


Concussions occur at rates as high as 3.6 – 3.8 million per year in the United States. Given this prevalence, they have recently become a cause for concern in our society. A wide range of symptoms can occur with this injury, and they fall in the cognitive, physical, and neurobehavioral categories. The current project sought to develop a better understanding of how concussions can affect one’s ability to assess emotions being expressed by others, as well as the ability to sustain attention. We also attempted to gain better insight into the neural affects associated with concussion. Participants in the current study were grouped into a group of healthy controls or a group with a history of concussion before completing an emotional face assessment task and a sustained attention task while in an fMRI scanner. Both groups showed similar behavior patterns on both tasks. They also had similar brain activation patterns. Areas involved in sustaining attention were those typically associated with these types of tasks which include activation of frontal and parietal regions. For the emotional assessment task, activation was seen in different frontal networks and the occipital frontal gyrus. To gain a better understanding of this injury, two case studies were performed on athletes with concussions. One had a long-term recovery while the other had a short-term recovery. Each athlete showed a neural profile that deviated from controls, with the short-term recovery showing a more drastic difference. By combining fMRI and behavioral data, we can fill in the gaps in the knowledge related to concussion and possibly provide a foundation for future treatment of the injury.